Virginia education superintendent releases guidance for schools during extended closure

By  | 

RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Following Gov. Northam's issuance of Executive Order 53 on March 23 requiring public K-12 schools across Virginia to stay closed for the rest of the academic year, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane released guidance for all schools on Tuesday.

Lane announced that his authority granted under Executive Order 51 is being used to ensure that high school seniors scheduled to graduate this spring will still be able to do so, despite the closure due to COVID-19.

“The governor and I agree that every student who was on a trajectory toward earning a diploma should be able to graduate on time and move on to the next stage of his or her life,” Lane said. “I hope the flexibility that I am announcing today will help students and teachers as they cope with the deep disappointment of having their time together unexpectedly cut short and of not being able to enjoy the recognitions and celebrations that should be a part of every student’s graduation experience.”

In a guidance document sent by the Dept. of Education to all 132 school divisions across Virginia, Lane said that high school seniors in the following categories will be able to graduate on time, despite the closure of schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year:

• Seniors currently enrolled in a course for which they need a standard or verified credit in order to graduate (verified credits are earned by passing a required course and also passing the associated Standards of Learning test);
• Seniors who have successfully completed a course required for graduation, but have not earned the associated verified credit; and
• Seniors who have not passed a required student-selected SOL test

Lane said flexibility also is available for seniors who have not earned a required career and technical education credential, seniors who have not completed a fine or performing arts course or CTE course, seniors who were unable to complete sequential course requirements, and seniors who have not completed a course in economics and personal finance.

“The vast majority of our high school seniors have already met most of the commonwealth’s rigorous graduation requirements,” Lane said. “And for most students in the class of 2020, that means passing nine end-of-course SOL tests in English, mathematics, science and history to earn an Advanced Studies Diploma.”

The General Assembly will have to take action to waive requirements for the following students:

• Seniors who have not completed training in emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the use of automated external defibrillators; and
• Seniors who have not completed a virtual course.

“I am confident that everyone recognizes that students should not be prevented from graduating because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control,” Lane said.

The guidance issued by the Virginia Department of Educatio also includes options for schools to continue giving instruction to students in other grades that will cover required course content, either while schools are closed, over the summer, or during 2020-2021, without disrupting their academic progress.

Those options include:

• Utilizing distance/remote, face-to-face or blended learning or learning modules while schools are closed with plans to ensure equitable access;
• Offering instruction during the summer of 2020;
• Extending the 2019-2020 calendar or adjusting the 2020-2021 calendar to allow for instruction in core content not covered by March 13, 2020; and
• Incorporating learning modules into an extension of the 2019-2020 school year or the existing 2020-2021 schedule.

“As school divisions review our guidance and plot a course forward that best fits their unique circumstances, they should make sure that every decision is equitable and meets the needs of all learners, including early learners, English learners and students with disabilities,” Lane said. “VDOE will continue to provide technical support and updated guidance as new issues and questions arise during this unprecedented challenge.”

VDOE this week also issued an online guide for parents and other caregivers. COVID-19: A Parent Guide for School-Aged Children is available on the department website and includes information on in-home learning activities, social distancing and other topics.